51 responses

  1. Rebecca Livermore
    July 23, 2012

    Marcus,

    I think you nailed it when you pointed out the following two things:

    1. People have to be continually learning and growing, or they die.

    2. No one is good at everything. People have to figure out who they are and what they are experts in, in order to be truly experts. There is just too much out there to be an expert in all things social media.

    As you know, I’m in the refining process myself, and much of it is really leaning into my strengths, and pulling away from things that I’m not that great at or not that passionate about, even though that means walking away from money.

    It’s not an easy thing to balance, but I believe the ones who do are the ones who will last. So hopefully I’ll get it all figured out myself. ;)

    • Marcus Sheridan
      July 23, 2012

      You’ve brought up an essential point I think Rebecca– that of refining…always.

      That’s why I think perfect business models are almost an impossible thing these days– at least until one has experimented, succeeded, failed, and pushed hard.

      Then, and only then, will the right path start to clear.

      Thanks for your thoughts lady. :-)

      Marcus

  2. John Falchetto
    July 23, 2012

    For me a social media expert is like mobile phone or fax expert. Just as useful.
    Social media is a tool which can be used to grow a business.
    What I think is more interesting are business or marketing experts, people who have a real experience doing it offline and then sharing it with others online.

    • Marcus Sheridan
      July 23, 2012

      Nice analogies JF. All this stuff is changing so fast that “expert status” will change by tomorrow if we don’t stay on the playground.

      Appreciate you bud,

      Marcus

    • rakesh kumar
      March 5, 2013

      Really love your idea about the social media expert. Al the experts have to evolve them self otherwise their knowledge will become stale and useless.

      • Marcus Sheridan
        March 6, 2013

        Yep, that’s exactly how it goes Rakesh…gotta stay busy!

  3. Joe Pulizzi
    July 23, 2012

    Marcus…again, excellent post and thanks so much. To be linked with Joel and Gini is an honor.

    You mentioned this, but I’d like to focus on this idea – CMI (myself included) has failed more than most, which is why I believe we’ve succeeded. No idea is a bad idea and we continue to use new ideas to push ourselves into uncomfortable places. Without all our failure, I’m not sure where we will be. I’m hoping to fail (fast) today, so that we can develop something even more substantial tomorrow.

    Keep up the great work.

    • Marcus Sheridan
      July 23, 2012

      JP, your comment here is a perfect example of what makes you and the CMI peeps so special– you’re willing to talk about failure.

      In fact, you don’t just talk about it, but you embrace it and see each one as a “victory.”

      That’s dang awesome my man.

      Can’t wait to be chatting face to face soon,

      Marcus

  4. Adarsh Thampy
    July 23, 2012

    Marcus,

    Yet another thought provoking (and controversial) post.

    For me an expert is simply someone who can do what he claims he can do. Period

    I started blogging back in 2006 and have owned several blogs over these many years. It’s funny how I can very well relate to your experience. The gurus or experts I have seen in the past are no longer active.

    Either it can be because new people overtook them. Or it might be because they have made enough money that they thought they’d retire. It might even be the case that they have turned to a new field completely and that’s why we no longer hear about them.

    Whatever be the case, short term experts are just, well, for the short term. People who can test stuff, like you said, will stand. The rest will fall!

    • Marcus Sheridan
      July 23, 2012

      Hey buddy, good points. Folks come and go, and often times it’s because they moved on and not necessarily their audience.

      But like you and I have both stated, the ones that don’t seem to make it despite their desires to do so simply don’t seem to utilize this playground effect.

      Good seeing you bud, as always…

      Marcus

  5. Stan @ PushingSocial
    July 23, 2012

    Marcus, I enjoyed the Playground Effect concept. It really captures what it takes to have longevity in any space.

    I disagree with the whole expert and semantics issue. I think being an expert is about capability not capacity. For example a neurosurgeon is an expert on the brain, not because she knows “everything” about the brain but because he’s capable of executing with the knowledge she has.

    So, I get a little edgy when social media expertise is predicated on knowing “everything” about social media. I know people who are experts at social media. People that I would trust with a Fortune 500 program, however they by no means know everything. But they can execute with the tools and knowledge they possess.

    • Marcus Sheridan
      July 23, 2012

      Great argument Stan.

      In general, I like to look at it in terms of “specialties.”

      In other words, I specialize in content marketing/HubSpot/Inbound Marketing. Those are my shtick, which means I’ve played with them a whole lot.

      As to whether or not I’m an expert, I’ll leave that up to the masses, but it frankly doesn’t rub me good or bad when someone uses the title for themselves. It is what it is.

      Which is also why I consider Stanford at Pushing Social a business blogging expert. ;-)

      Marcus

  6. Joe Hackman
    July 23, 2012

    Hi Marcus,

    I think we had a perfect storm for this kind of phenomenon. It speaks volumes to the value of the services that real professionals can provide when the cards are down (like they were in recent years). It also created a chaotic race to be relevant with many individuals previously good at something trying something else to attempt to stay afloat.

    To your question: The qualities that will keep a real professional going are consistency and results.

  7. Rob Skidmore
    July 23, 2012

    I think the biggest factor is hard work . It is easy to write a few great posts and ride the wave to temporary social media stardom. But it is much harder to sustain the effort.

    I remember a post from Darren Rowse at Problogger.net where he talked about a blog he had started a while ago. The site was starting to gain traction and a had developed a decent following. But Darren had something come up and he neglected the blog for a few months. He assumed that he could return and start posting and pick up where he left off. But no matter what he did the followers did not come back. Luckily he learned from the experience and made Problogger what it is today.

    (I really wish I could find the post. It was a good one.)

    I look at people like Joe, Gini, and Mitch and yes, I see people who make mistakes and are still learning and growing, but mostly I see people who work like crazy every single day to be the best.

    I ran the 400 hurdles in college. It was easy to tell the difference between athletes who worked hard and those who did not. Lazy runners start out fast and might even lead the race for the first 200 meters but then legs get heavy, lungs start burning, and they falter. Only the athletes who trained hard had the stamina to finish and even accelerate at the end of a race.

    Lazy “social media experts” might win at the beginning of the race but only those who work hard have the strength to finish it.

    Work is the difference.

    • Rebecca Livermore
      July 23, 2012

      Rob,

      You make a good point here, and I was actually thinking the same thing. It is HARD to keep up the pace year in and year out.

      Running (or any kind of exercise) is a good analogy because it’s a ton of work to get into really good shape, but doesn’t take long to get out of shape and to have to start basically from scratch. Plus as you pointed out, those who take those big breaks not only lose momentum, and I think they also lose trust and credibility.

  8. Ben
    July 23, 2012

    I have seen this as well. In fact, I remember talking with my business partner about how many people had “Social Media Expert” as their self-title on their blogs, twitter, etc… To be a true expert, you definitely have to be learning and taking action every single day. Social media is still changing at a rapid pace, with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. I mean, look at Pinterest for example. It rocketed out of nowhere!

  9. Jon Loomer
    July 23, 2012

    Thanks for the tough love, Marcus! My site’s done quite well, but I’m still a short-timer. This is a nice reminder to stay focused and motivated, and nothing motivates like the fear of failure.

    Stay awesome.

  10. Elaine
    July 23, 2012

    At the risk of offending a lot of people who have marketing or social media blogs, it seems like everyone’s trying to make money by teaching other people how to make money with their own marketing blog. And it goes around and around in a circle. “I’ll pat your back if you pat mine.”

    Mitch Joel says: “Most people are in it for themselves” and explains a similar idea here:
    http://www.twistimage.com/blog/archives/the-dirty-little-secret-of-the-twitter-elite/

    I read a lot of marketing blogs to get tips on how to promote my NON-marketing blog, and only a few — like TSL — are actually helpful in giving concrete tips to people whose target customers don’t spend 24/7 online.

    Or maybe this is just my frustration talking. :)

  11. Ameena
    July 23, 2012

    As you have proven, time and time again Marcus, we are all experts of our own experience. Be wary of any self proclaimed experts because that should not be a term you claim ever in the blogosphere – let your fans call you that!

    Social media is a tool, it is just a part of business, if you want to make a bigger stand in the world you need to get clear on your goal, get offline if you can and dazzle peeps. The idea that social media is the answer is a mth. It helps us confuse activity with achievement and far too much time is wasted chasing the social media lucky pot of gold that does not exist

  12. Laura Click
    July 23, 2012

    Really love the playground concept, Marcus. I think that’s exactly what makes those blogs – and yours – special. It’s because each of them share advice and expertise based on what they’ve tested and tried. I’m a big believer in that approach and I think this is applicable no matter what field you’re in – social media or otherwise.

    I don’t get hung up on the whole “expert” thing. I think there are indeed experts and I would count everyone you listed as one of them. The problem is that the waters get muddied by the legions who proclaim they have expert or guru status without the experience and knowledge to back it up. Honestly, I think the ones that SAY they are an expert are usually they ones that aren’t. The others come about it honestly based on their credentials.

  13. Ryan Hanley
    July 23, 2012

    Here’s a question for you…

    Does an expert… Someone who’s truly making their dent in the industry and in the lives of their clients have the time to label themselves an expert?

    You’re an expert is clients label you an expert… And even then the title means nothing.

    And just as you mentioned Marcus being an expert is ultimately a lifelong pursuit because there is always something new to learn.

    Great stuff buddy!

  14. David Sylvester
    July 23, 2012

    Being an “expert” is really so subjective. In my career as an Oracle programmer, I used to consider whether I could use the label “expert” as it regarded something in which I was very proficient. I always shied away from it because as long as I knew there people who were better than me, I wasn’t an expert. They were the experts.

    So who is an expert? I think experts are identified by others, not themselves. My list of Oracle experts were probably experts, even though there were still more knowledgeable people. The intern hired during the summer of ’98 may have thought I was an expert. If so, then I guess I was – to him. I wouldn’t say that.

    When I think about experts, I consider two things:

    1) Is the available knowledge widely-curated and agreed-upon?
    2) Is the available knowledge relatively static?

    For instance, the knowledge within many historical disciplines is limited, in that while there may be a lot of it, it can be consumed, and everyone agrees that the sources are correct. For example, few would argue that Shelby Foote was an expert on the American Civil War. Even though he didn’t know everything, he probably knew almost everything someone could know. In addition, while there were (and still are) debates on various matters, history doesn’t usually change a lot within a short period of time.

    In social media, there are few (any?) sources that everyone agrees are definitive. Plus, it’s changing all the time. Even if there are experts, they are experts only right now.

    If I were to call someone an expert at social media, or something else that is in constant flux, I’d suggest that the person be adept at integrating change into their understanding. I’d require that the person be resourceful. Resourcefulness is something I think is essential. Knowing where to find the answers is better than trying to store all of that information in one’s brain. Simply knowing how much you don’t know is a step towards expertise in my opinion.

  15. Matthew Stock
    July 23, 2012

    Hey Marcus-

    I would think a lot of those bloggers who came and went couldn’t figure how to make an actual living. $$$ is what usually makes the world go round.

    You have the advantage of being a businessman first and can teach from experience, so you have my vote.

  16. Paul Onwueme
    July 24, 2012

    Well Marcus your observation is universal, look at entertainment, music or movies someone rises to prominence and after a while fades into obscurity the phenomenon is quite glaring for all to see but why it happens that way is not totally clear but perhaps it’s because those concerned are not able to adapt to changing times but also lacking the power to remain consistently reliable.

  17. Wade Balsdon
    July 24, 2012

    Marcus, I am not one for titles. To coin a phrase, money buys the whiskey. My philosophy is that once you are making money in your niche, you are then expert enough to show others how to do it. ( This is my way of agreeing with Laura). This is only after trial and error and and when you have developed a solid income stream.

    Regarding your comment about here today, gone tomorrow, it is all about stickability. All good things come to those who persevere (in the right way). Thanks for another thought provoking post.

  18. Mark
    July 24, 2012

    Hey Marcus,

    I think its much better to be an expert at starting businesses, marketing, accounting, legal, promoting, finance, etc.

    You know, real things that matter if you desire to build a successful business.

    The thing with social media is those who have social skills that can easily and effectively build relationship with other people are golden in social.

    That goes for those who don’t have a clue about business too, and what it takes to actually run them and turn a profit.

    Unfortunately, that is the profile of most “social media experts” who are eagerly desirous to show business owners how to build successful businesses leveraging the social web. There’s much more to building a successful business than social media.

    The gift of gab is great, but you must possess substance – and that comes an with understanding of business, coupled with a solid new media plan that can produce realistic goals, ROI for the time invested.

    To do it any other way is, well, a waste really – which is precisely what many businesses have done hiring these ‘so-called’ social media experts…

    It may not be the intention of well-intentioned folks, but it is hurting, rather than helping the industry better serve the small business owner;.

  19. Des Williams
    July 24, 2012

    I agree and disagree with Mark’s comment.

    There is no doubt to become successful in business you have to indeed focus on the core areas of business that allow you grow responsibly in keeping a close hold on your accounting, tracking, and other back end areas that are vital.

    However, the most important thing in business is creating sales and leads, because without those two things, your business will fail….. simply stated.

    Leveraging social media is not rocket science, yet it is simply buying into the fact that every single thing you do in your business is an opportunity to share that with a new potential client. The trick is ingraining this into your company’s cultural in a way that is second nature, and does not lower your productivity.

    Leveraging social media from a grass roots approach has single handily grown our business from start up to industry leader in 2 years, in one of the toughest economic environments this nation has ever faced. Every company does great work or has a great product or service, but the key is letting other know what you do on a consistent basis, becoming “first in mind,” and closing the sale when a lead develops.

    Marcus

    Touching base on one of your questions. I think the real key to success among these “experts” is consistency over time. You must believe in what you do or share and show that passion on a consistent basis.

    You must remember that just because you don’t have a 1000 likes, shares, tweets, or comments, that your information may still be being read, digested, and applied on a physical level, even if not on a social level, making that actually way powerful that any social indicator could ever be.

    Continue to give people to tools for success and people will one day provide you with the content of that success to continue the cycle!

    Wishing all of you on the TSL much success and thanks for allowing me to share.

    Des

    • Marcus Sheridan
      July 27, 2012

      Des, as always, great points bud.

      Speaking of social media success and metrics, one thing that is never shown on the “shared” barometer is the amount of clients garnered from that particular post, campaign, etc.

      Fact is, there are many people and businesses killing it and if you look at their online numbers, they’re really not that astounding.

      But the ones that read, react. And ultimately, that’s everything.

      Thanks again,

      Marcus

  20. David Shaw
    July 24, 2012

    Hey Marcus, this post really stuck a chord with me as i have been attending a few B2B trade shows recently and it seems every 3rd company was a social media expert, offering training and expert insight. Yet when i probed them more into how were they tieing this into business objectives and how did they could increase the only number that matters the bank balance, they offered me very little other than they can increase followers and this will turn into leads!

    • Marcus Sheridan
      July 27, 2012

      Yep, it’s an industry full of shallow promises, that’s for sure David.

      Good stuff bud,

      Marcus

  21. Jk Allen | Hustle Methodology
    July 24, 2012

    Yo Marcus,

    What’s up Buddy! Enjoyed this read. I thought everyone on Twitter (like most of them claim) are social media experts.

    What a joke!

    I haven’t found a single person to classify as a Social Media expert–at large. That’s like assigning a college professor as a Professor of all things education. Impossible. What colleges do have is professors of their subject matter: mathematics, engineering, etc. And within that breakdown, there’s a lower level below the subject matter (level of study, concentration, etc.).

    I see social media the same way. Yes there are experts, but I believe that the expertise is more narrow than most elude to. For instance, you’re an expert at content marketing (a form of social media). I don’t think you consider yourself an expert of Foursquare or the 25 other social networks although you know how to make them work for you and your clients (btw – I know nothing about Foursquare other than it’s weird to me).

    Any how. Great read and it inspired some great thoughts within.

    Expect to see me more and more.
    I’m back!

    PEACE

    • Marcus Sheridan
      July 27, 2012

      JK!!! What’s up buddy?!

      Yeah man, your college professor analogy is perfect bud. (And I don’t do the 4 square thing either, so you’re not alone ;-)

      Good seeing you man and have loved watching you crush it with Growth Effect over these last few months.

      Marcus

  22. Ken Jacobs
    July 24, 2012

    Great post, Marcus. The person who introduced me to so much of social media, and Twitter in particular, @anniemal once told me something to the effect of “Real social media experts never call themselves experts, because they acknowledge the speed with which this is all changing, and that they’re learning every day. If someone claims to be a social media expert, run, do not walk, away.” I have to agree. That said, the social media enthusiasts from whom I’ve learned and am learning the most, in addition to you and “Author Gini Dietrich,” are Danny Brown, Shonali Burke, Priya Ramesh, Jay Baer, Ken Mueller, Jason Kopiniski (sp?), Shelly Kramer, Beth Harte…

    • Marcus Sheridan
      July 27, 2012

      Well said Ken. @anniemal was dead-on with that assessment in my opinion.

      Appreciate the kind words bud.

      Marcus

  23. Davina K. Brewer
    July 24, 2012

    I have knowledge. I have experience. I also have a lot of ideas, not all tested in the field -yet. I have skills, talents. Whether or not they make me an ‘expert’ I don’t care; it’s whether they make me the right ‘expert’ for the client or employer. Your Hubspot example w/ Standford is a good example.

    As always Marcus the post and comments here rock. Instead of bombing, here goes FWIW:

    @Rob. WORD on finishing the race. “Work is the difference.” Hard work, co-signed.

    @Joe. I’ve written about failure, it’s how we learn, it’s how we grow and keep moving forward. We learn not to make the same mistakes, and we also discover new ways to do things better, maybe things we never would have thought of otherwise. More businesses need to learn to not panic over every mistake, but see the opportunities too.

    @Standford. I too don’t want the semantic debate of ‘expert’ or whatnot. Your example is solid. Anyone can write; but I think I write better than most, that I can take the same words, tools and communicate stronger messages. I don’t know enough about everything, may not have the blogs, the books, the following of others. But that doesn’t matter. Doesn’t matter if I’m an ‘expert’ – matters if I’m the expert for you, the one who can help your business. cc @Mark

    @David Nicely said. See the other comments re: learning. You’re right, SM is so dynamic, it’s about knowing what’s now. Or better still, knowing enough about what’s really behind all this (marketing, and really communication, business) and then applying that knowledge, that expertise if you will to the SM tools. ITA knowing we don’t know everything – and being willing to learn – steps 1-6 in becoming an expert, in anything.

    @Elaine, it’s not just you. ;-)

    • Marcus Sheridan
      July 27, 2012

      #YourCommentsRock

      Thanks D’ :-)

      Marcus

  24. Leo Dimilo
    July 25, 2012

    I think a lot of it boils down to intent. Most people who start marketing and social media blogs don’t do anything in the arena other than “blog”; and usually it IS about the money. The people you mention- Mitch Joel, Joe Pulizzi & Gini Dietrich all have businesses that goes beyond the scope of the blogs they attend.

    When you are knee deep in it and have clients that you are caring for, then the blog becomes more of a reflective device.

    • Marcus Sheridan
      July 27, 2012

      Great point Leo. There is sooooo much more to this than “make money from blogging” for these folks. The teaching side is simply who they are and what they do.

      Really appreciate your thoughts!

      Marcus

  25. Ishan
    July 25, 2012

    you also must have the ability to continually experiment

    This is one thing that is necessary for every expert, be it social media or not.

    I have also seen many ships sink this way in the sea of social media and it is really strange how many people just stop learning!

    • Marcus Sheridan
      July 27, 2012

      Ishan, how are you bud? Hope all is well and yes, the continual learning is HUGE. An absolute really.

      Great seeing you man,

      Marcus

      • Ishan
        July 27, 2012

        Hello Marcus,

        I am aright. Everything is going normal. Enjoying blogging, programming and gaming. :)

        Thanks,

        Ishan.

  26. margie clayman (@margieclayman)
    July 26, 2012

    Well, you know I agree with this.

    I really think the age of the social media guru is coming to an end, as I think I’ve said here before (is it a sign of age when you start forgetting where you wrote what? Nah, we’ll go with the busy excuse). I think some of the shine of social media has worn off. It’s becoming something normal and every day. We no longer REALLY think about the fact that we’re talking to people from all around the world simultaneously for free. It’s become old hat. Now we want to know what’s next – and the what’s next is using social media as a tool. For what? Well, that’s the REAL secret sauce.

    You and Gini and Mitch and Joe have jobs that extend beyond just doing social media. If social media disappeared tomorrow, you’d all probably be fine – you might need to find new ways to do stuff, but you’d be okay. For people who have built themselves up solely on blogging wisdom, Twitter tips, and Facebook fanfare (sorry, I love alliteration) it’s going to be a MUCH tougher road. I worry about those folks – I’m not sure they see it coming.

    Good stuff, Marcus. As always.

    • Marcus Sheridan
      July 27, 2012

      I appreciate your thoughts here Margie, and they’re keen as well. Yes, we’re coming upon a new age of “experts” in this field. As to how it will all shake out, I’m honestly not sure. But like you said, I’m going to push everyday to make sure that no matter what happens, multiple doors will always remain open.

      Thanks for all you are,

      Marcus

  27. Mitch Mitchell
    July 27, 2012

    Hey Marcus,

    Time to answer this question of yours: “What characteristics do you see that allow one to stand the test of time?”

    I have but one answer; the characteristic is… someone anointed them as the expert and others jumped on the bandwagon. That’s pretty much it.

    As cynical as that sounds, let me explain. Earlier in the week I came across another one of those posts that purported to list 25 top social media influencers. Me being me, I looked up the websites of all the people I didn’t already know on the list, of which there were 19. Out of those 19 one website didn’t come up at all, and 10 of the other websites were ranked lower than mine. None of the websites had as much content on their sites as I had on mine, and hadn’t been around as long as mine.

    A couple of them were really good I must admit, but the rest were either equal to my style or writing or less than my style of writing; my opinion of course. So, characteristic seemed to have nothing to do with it.

    But being anointed… that’s a totally different story. There are thousands of posts out there that make a recommendation for gaining influence being to leave comments on the posts of big name bloggers and social media folks, write them and praise them, and then they’ll notice you and help promote you. I think that’s pretty horrible on the surface and yet one of my online friends who teaches people how to get known recommends the same thing on a grander scale.

    So, is it talent that wills out or perseverance in trying to get someone’s attention that has influence that could help you progress? I think it’s kind of a crap shoot most of the time. I will say this though. I do believe that sometimes the anointing is appropriate based on talent, and I’d give you credit for doing that with your blog. And you know I’m not the kissing up kind (how often have I disagreed with you? lol) so just accept that for what its worth. I have my short list of folks who I believe really made it on their own, so to speak, and are used by others to gain more prominence. I’d put you on that list; but don’t get used to it. ;-)

    • Marcus Sheridan
      July 27, 2012

      Hahahaha Mitch, as one who never gives fluff, I’ll take that as a HUGE compliment bud.

      You make some legit points man. Some folks have gotten where they are not necessarily because they merit it, but rather because they were lifted up by others.

      And then there are folks that have clearly not gotten the credit they deserve, likely because they’re missing a few network pieces that seem to make all the difference.

      But I do think this phenomena is not specific to the social media realm, as it’s found in just about every corner of the universe.

      But then again, I could be wrong. ;-)

      Thanks for all you bring to the table Mitch.

      Marcus

  28. Philos Mudis
    July 28, 2012

    The characteristic I like is one where the ‘expert’ never enjoys being a teacher and a student at the same time.

    I think helping a lot of people for free (or by offering premium services) can help the expert learn more about the challenges their clients (consumers) go through. This can also help them learn more about how different people take and implement their advice.

    The expert who does this never runs of ideas and examples to share with the rest.

  29. Sandy Vanhoey
    August 9, 2012

    The best formula to this is to become a great expert and build high quality mark up. When a person is expert on a certain field he is willing to share everything what he has learn to everyone.

  30. Diana Stanshop
    August 16, 2012

    A social media expert act as the consultant of a business and at the same time, do the changes needed. If you hire an expert, you not only get a business adviser but also a swift worker to finish the job.

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